Under bipartisan pressure, President Trump signed an executive order on June 20 ending his “zero tolerance” policy at the U.S. border that led to the separation of 2,300 migrant children from their parents. Yet nearly three weeks later, however, many families have yet to be reunited. Migrant children have been scattered all over the country, including to East Harlem, where Cayuga Centers, a foster care provider contracted by the Department of Health and Human Services, has taken in 239 youth since the zero-tolerance policy was implemented this spring.
Immigrant mothers and their children rallied outside of the foster center on June 28, one of numerous demonstrations nationally calling for the Trump administration to mend the humanitarian crisis it has spawned.
“Libertad para los niños,” (freedom for the children) demonstrators chanted.
“We put ourselves in the shoes of those mothers who come in search of a better future, but who find that there is only incarceration and the separation of their children,” said Maria Mercado, a member of Movement for Justice in El Barrio (MJB), which organized the protest. MJB primarily focuses on fighting gentrification in East Harlem but is adding immigrant rights to its plate due to the xenophobic policies being imposed by the White House.
It was in part thanks to grassroots mobilizations nationwide that the Trump administration ended the family separations last month and activists hope now that they can force it to speed up the reunification process, already over-deadline.
Adolescent demonstrators carried signs at the June 28 protest reading “Immigrant Children are Not Criminals.” They also took part in a skit in which a man wearing a Trump mask was led into a makeshift prison cell. That’s where Trump deserves to be not migrant families, said Mercado.
As the protest came to a close, white candles were distributed and lit one by one. Each candle represented the lost ties between families during the Trump era. Rally-goers said they could relate to parents and children that have been separated since they themselves migrated to the United States and underwent the process of having to let go of their deep-rooted communities in their home countries.
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Photo (top): Demonstrators outside of an East Harlem migrant child detention center in June. Credit: @anjalitsui/Twitter.